Warning: Foreign Keyboards Strike Back


shutterstock_62052154I had been looking forward to my holiday in France for a long time, eager to experience a new culture and lifestyle.  Before leaving, I promised to write an e-mail to my family and friends everyday to share all my adventures with them.

I knew it wouldn’t take up much time thanks to the typing lessons I took in school with plenty of typing practice under my belt and the impressive 105 I scored on a wpm test recently.  As soon as my feet landed on Parisian soil, I knew why everyone raved about this city back home.  Everything was different in a nice way; the language, the food, attire and attitude.

In all my excitement of exploring the city, I had almost forgotten about my promise to send an e-mail.  Luckily, I found a cozy internet cafe not far off from where I was, and settled down to finish them off quickly.  I typed out my first mail to Dad without once looking down as I was trained to do by my typing tutor when I practiced keyboarding online.  Here is a little snippet of the gobbledygook staring back at me from the screen:

“Hi; I, ade it sqfely to Pqris: Tell, o, not to zorry qbout, e, m I q, qt q nice zo, qn|s ho, e:

Zqs it Ed|s zedding on the &(th/ Zish hi, on, y behalf: I zill, iss it qll M9″

Dad would never manage to decipher my originally intended text, which would have read like this in simple English:

“Hi, I made it safely toParis. Tell mom not to worry about me; I am at a nice woman’s home.

Was it Ed’s wedding on the 15th? Wish him luck on my behalf. I will miss it all :(

Imagine my horror to find that almost all of the words made no sense!  All my Qs and Ws were replaced with As and Zs. I had misplaced punctuation marks, and letters were interchanged with numbers; both my e-mail draft and my mind were a mighty mess.

Sitting there in that internet cafe, totally confused and frustrated with my keyboard problems, I was sure someone was playing a prank on me by switching around the keys. Little did I realize that the culprit was the standard keyboard layout in some European countries; I wasn’t even aware that something called AZERTY existed.

It took me a good hour to find the right keys and fix the mistakes in my first e-mail. This reminded me of my hunt-and-peck days before I started taking  typing lessons. I could just imagine sitting down with my friends once I got back, trying to convince them this was a true story. They just wouldn’t believe that I, the typing test wpm champ of the group, had so much trouble writing a short e-mail.

Oh, how I missed my good old QWERTY keyboard. It definitely took away some of the charm ofFranceand made me home-sick. Actually, I blame myself for not preparing properly for the foreign trip. If I was expecting these AZERTY keyboarding changes all over the country, it would have reduced some of the initial shock and saved me some precious time, which I could have used to go sightseeing and shopping instead!

Anyway, it’s just another valuable lesson in life. Now I will have to learn to type on a foreign keyboard in my spare time, especially if I plan on living abroad for a long duration. I can experience a new culture like I always wanted, and I have an interesting anecdote to narrate as a bonus.

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